- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
One might think the entire running back conversation for the 2012 fantasy football season starts and ends with a certain Minnesota Vikings marvel who proved injury timelines can be different for certain players. Well, there was a lot more that occurred during the 2012 season at what tends to be fantasy's most perplexing position. There were hotshot rookies, critical injuries to first-rounders, a former 2,000-yard rusher managed to disappoint us yet again and, well, let's just get right to the season recap and look ahead to 2013. We've already written about the quarterbacks, and wide receivers and tight ends will be coming soon. Enjoy!
Running back MVP: Adrian Peterson blew out his left knee so late during the 2011 season that the injury wasn't surgically repaired until New Year's Eve. It was a bit unfathomable that Peterson would be available and in prime form by Week 1 of the 2012 season, which certainly made his draft-day status problematic. Some believed Peterson would heal so quickly that he could be a first-rounder again. Others presumed he'd miss games and struggle to regain his competency, kind of like what happened to former Pittsburgh Steelers starter Rashard Mendenhall.
Well, Peterson obviously didn't struggle. He scored 2 touchdowns in Week 1. Then starting in Week 7, he went on a magical run, carrying fantasy owners. Peterson topped 100 rushing yards nine times in the final 10 games. He topped 200 yards twice. He scored 11 touchdowns. He finished as fantasy's top running back by 49 points. Washington Redskins rookie Alfred Morris might have brought more value, since he was chosen in the 11th round, on average, in ESPN live drafts and finished fifth in running back scoring, whereas Peterson went in Round 2. It's just tough to argue against Peterson, though Morris and fellow rookie Doug Martin should get high praise for their accomplishments.
Running back LVP: The easy pick would be Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew. The fantasy first-rounder played in only six games, reaching double digits twice, then didn't play again for the remainder of the season. Even worse, Jones-Drew was annoyingly designated as week-to-week rather than simply shut down due to his foot injury, but at least fantasy owners knew not to play him.
Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans fits the description of disappointment in the same way New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning does; Johnson delivered two stretches of underwhelming play, both in September and heading to the fantasy playoffs. Still, he did have some big weeks, and he still finished 13th at the position in standard scoring. San Diego Chargers disappointment Ryan Mathews did not. The No. 14 running back in ADP actually played in 12 games, missing the first two and the last two, and he managed to reach double digits in fantasy scoring just once. It was Week 5 at the Saints. That was it. Mathews was regarded as a RB2 most of the season, but he hardly played like it, as he scored one touchdown all year and averaged seven fantasy points per game. That's not very valuable.
Eric Karabell recaps the year in fantasy at the running back position and presents his initial 2013 RB rankings.